Originally published in the New Statesman
India’s Daughter has exposed that country’s rape culture. But don’t imagine that these attitudes aren’t found around the world.
This week’s screening of the film India’s Daughter has brought long overdue attention to India’s national rape crisis, and the causes behind it. It examines the story of a young woman – Jyoti Singh – who was gang raped by six men and murdered on a bus in Delhi in 2012. Jyoti was raped repeatedly before the men forced an iron rod inside her, removing part of her intestine. She died later that night in hospital. Her rapists and their lawyers’ attempted justifications behind the attack – including “in our culture, there is no place for a woman” – are among one of the most shocking aspects of the film.
Yet, many of the repugnant views voiced by the rapists and their defenders interviewed in the film are alive on our own doorsteps, and the doorsteps of women around the world. Many societies, for example, have adopted a culture of acceptability, where sexual harassment and rape are seen as inevitable. A lawyer defending the Delhi attackers compared women at various points in the interview to a precious flower and a diamond, saying that “if you put the diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out, you can’t stop it”. This implication, that the urge to act upon sexual desires in a violent manner is natural and therefore socially acceptable, is prevalent elsewhere. For example, according to Egyptian academic Dr Hania Sholkamy, Egyptian politicians have compared women to raw meat who, if left uncovered, will inevitably be devoured by animals.